Andi Oliver’s secret ingredient: blackstrap molasses

I love the name: “blackstrap molasses”. It sounds fabulous, like something I want to wear. Mo-la-sess … it reminds me of sultry, southern, beautiful nights, the music that I love, the blues.

They use it in baking a lot in America, as a sweetener in the south. In the Caribbean, you put it in black cake which we make at Christmas. It has loads of rum and rum-soaked dried fruit and molasses. The molasses gives depth and colour.

It’s also quite bitter so it’s almost its own opposite; it has sweetness and bitterness, and depth and brightness all at the same time. You know when you’re tasting things and there’s a sort of empty hole? Molasses will fill that gap.

My dad always cooked with molasses, he would put it in cakes and curries, mutton stew or beef casserole. My mum was more of an everyday kind of come-home-from school-cook and my dad, more of an event cook – he would make big flourishing affairs. When I’m making my chocolate curry goat, or a deep, dark ragu, I put in molasses. When I’m making a steak and kidney pie, I put molasses in the gravy because it gives you depth, that umami punch, that bottom end of flavour. Magical molasses, it’s the thing that gives you the last beat, like the bass drum in a really good tune.